Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Rachel Higginson - The Five Stages of Falling in Love

Elizabeth Carlson is living in the pits of hell- also known as grief.
Her husband of eight years, the father of her four children and the love of her life, died six months ago from cancer. Grady’s prognosis was grim, even from the start, but Liz never gave up hope he would survive. How could she, when he was everything to her?
Six months later, she is trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life and get the kids to school on time. Both seem impossible. Everything seems impossible these days.
When Ben Tyler moves in next door, she is drowning in sorrow and pain, her children are acting out, and the house is falling apart. She has no time for curious new friends or unwanted help, but Ben gives her both. And he doesn’t just want to help her with yard work or cleaning the gutters. Ben wants more from Liz. More than she’s capable of ever giving again.
As Liz mourns her dead husband and works her way through the five stages of grief, she finds there’s more of her heart to give than she thought possible. And as new love takes hold, she peels away the guilt and heartache, and discovers there’s more to life than death.

Comment: I got interested in this book because of its premise. A woman who has lost her loving husband now needs to process it and eventually start to move on. I talked about this theme with my friend H., and that was how we decided to read it as a buddy read. All things considered, it wasn't so bad but I definitely expected more.

In this book we meet Elizabeth Carlson, a 32 year old woman whose husband dies of cancer and leaves her with four children and a broken heart. Elizabeth now has many challenges to go over but she can't seem to function properly while she deals with her grief and mourns her husband, whom she loved so much. But life goes on and those who are alive an't simply stop time so Elizabeth still has many routines to go through during her day. 
She also has a new neighbor, a man who seems quite friendly and who, with time and the more she gets to know him, offers support in a way Elizabeth didn't think was possible. The thing is, Ben, the neighbor starts to act in a way that shows more than friend vibes and becomes more and more important to Elizabeth's children and for herself. 
Can Elizabeth go through the five stages of grief to find a new start?

This is a contemporary story about the way people process grief and move on, even if that seems an impossible task while facing a deep mourning. Many of the issues related by Elizabeth seem realistically done and since everyone has lost someone at some point in their lives, this is obviously a situation all readers can relate to in some level. Yes, not everyone lost a loving spouse but grief is grief to some point. When it comes to feelings and thoughts one goes through, I bet Elizabeth's tale is very touching.

For me, the problem was how this was narrated in the first person. Yes, one gets to connect with the main character better but I think it was quite reducing to have Elizabeth's thoughts like that and somehow I feel having the story like this wasn't as moving as I imagined. Besides, when Elizabeth faced others' issues and dialogues there was certainly a lot missing by not having the others' POV.
I think this especially when it came to her mother-in-law and Ben and how they interacted.

The subject is clearly difficult. Losing someone isn't an easy task to process. There is so much one could say, even more about younger people who, by nature and society's laws, should have more time to learn new life lessons and so on...Elizabeth's pain and grief were well portrayed, I guess.
However, while she went through the better known five stages of grieving (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), we are also seeing her journey towards being in love again. 
Now, for plot purposes, of course this not-coincidence makes things sort of cyclic but at the same time it can be seen as quite ill-timed and often one wonders if people move on too quickly. Is there a formula that everyone mourns using the same amount of time? Although I didn't find it weird Elizabeth was slowly moving on, saying all the right things, when it comes to this romance story I think more time or different paths would have done the job better.

The romance felt...unbalanced. Probably because by only having Elizabeth's POV we get to focus solely on her side of things and only by dialogue do we know what Ben thinks about the progress of their relationship. He does come out as a very understanding guy who is there for her and the kids but he is sort of perfect even when Elizabeth says she is not ready. I think that this story, told by both their POVs and more time after her husband's death (more than the years I think, that is mentioned) would make it easier for the story to feel more romantic. I ended up thinking that they were conveniently close at the right moment, not that they were hopelessly destined.

Of course, this is relative. I'm just saying that for me, based on how I interpreted things, I ended up having this opinion. I liked the children and conveniently, they were all young to process mourning in a more simplistic way.
The story as a whole was OK, interesting details but it could have been better overall, I think.
Grade: 6/10

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